Top journalist loses Book of the Year judging role over Twitter comments

Martin Shipton’s Twitter account

The Western Mail’s Chief Correspondent Martin Shipton has had to give up his judging role at the Book of the Year awards after an argument on Twitter about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Literature Wales, the body responsible for the annual award, has now announced that he will not remain a judge due to his comments over the weekend.

The Book of the Year shortlist will be announced on July 1.

In a statement, Literature Wales said the journalist had “displayed conduct that is detrimental to our values and interests as an organisation by use of aggressive language”.

The organisation did not say which comments, in particular, constituted aggressive language. Martin Shipton had tweeted criticising the Black Lives Matter protest in Cardiff, and also condemned “appalling thuggery” in the protest in London. At least one of the tweets, however, in which he responded to a tweet telling him to “retire” with a tweet saying “die”, seems to have been deleted.

Martin Shipton, however, said that he regretted the decision to remove him from the judging panel.

“After expressing my concerns about the Black Lives Matter protest in Cardiff, which undoubtedly broke the Welsh Government’s prohibition on public gatherings of more than two people, I was subjected on Twitter to a vicious tirade of abuse and bullying that lasted for days,” he said.

“Many of the tweets questioned my right to express an opinion, called into question my credentials as a journalist and attacked me on the basis of my age.

“One of my guiding principles is not to appease bullies, so I defended myself by responding robustly to my attackers.”Without giving me the opportunity to explain myself, Literature Wales decided to remove me from the panel of judges for the Welsh Book of the Year awards. I regret the decision, which I find both perverse and contrary to natural justice.

“I have always been a strong advocate for Welsh writers and this incident will not change that.”

 

‘Values’

Literature Wales had earlier released the following statement:

“The Wales Book of the Year Award is an important event in the Welsh literary calendar, and as organisers, our priority is to ensure that the focus of conversation is Wales’ talented writers, and that the literary community and industries of Wales can benefit from the recognition of their work,” Literature Wales said.

“The shortlisting meeting will soon take place, and we look forward to sharing this exciting announcement on Wednesday 1 July 2020, before going on to announce the winners of Wales Book of the Year towards the end of July.

“Our values are principles that we consider central to who we are as an organisation. We expect everyone involved with Literature Wales – whether staff, Directors, clients, tutors, volunteers or panel members – to respect and observe them. We believe in everyone’s right to freedom of expression, however it is our view that during recent online activity, one of the individuals appointed to judge the Wales Book of the Year Award has displayed conduct that is detrimental to our values and interests as an organisation by use of aggressive language.

“Regretfully, we have therefore asked Martin Shipton to step down from his role as a judge, and would like to thank him for his work and collaboration with Wales Book of the Year over recent months.”

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